Thursday, March 22, 2012

Your children can eventually grow out of stupidity, you know.

DISCUSSION 1 (a few days ago):

Me:  Did you call a realtor?

Mom: No. I have to clean out your brother's and your father's rooms first.

Me:  Mom - they don't care.  You have the cleanest and nicest house in town.  You were just widowed - no one will care.

Mom:  The house is filthy.

Me:  No, Mom - the house is spotless.  I know you.  I've been in other houses in Peru and the floors are caving in and the mold has its own address and mailbox at most of them.

Mom: Have you seen my kitchen?

Me:  You have one worn floor tile that you have taped plastic sheeting over to prevent further damage.  Cleaning is what you do - it's your OCD talking.

Mom:  What's that mean?

Me: You nearly died while recovering from your back injury because you couldn't run the vacuum or dust. You spent that day in the chair after you 'couldn't go another day without mopping' - remember?

Mom: Well..

Me:  Call her.

Mom: (reluctantly) Okay.

DISCUSSION 2 (today):

Mom:  Well - I called the realtor and now there is a for sale sign in front of my house.

Me:  Really?? Wow - that's great.   So Andie thought it was in saleable condition?

Mom: Not only that - she said she already has someone she wants to show it to.  She said it's immaculate - except for that hole in the hall ceiling and the sidewalk your brother never finished.

Me:  Mom! That's easy and cheap - get whats-his-name's brother in. The one who totaled his truck and ended up with false teeth when he hit that poor hog in Iowa. You know...

Mom:  Okay - yeah.  The first showing is tomorrow at 10 am.

Me: That's great! Is that Andie's client?

Mom: No. She got back to the office with the listing and her associate said it's exactly what his client is looking for.

Me: Oh my god - Mom - this is  great.

Mom:  I can't be here when they show it.  I guess I'll go to coffee.

Me: Did you and Andie talk price?

Mom:  Yes - she's starting it at (nearly $20k more than Mom thought it was worth) to give us bargaining room.

Me: (ready to faint) OH MY GOD, MOM!! THAT"S WHAT I TOLD YOU! OH MY GOD!

Mom: I don't want to sell too soon.  I guess I'll have to tell the girls at bridge tonight about it.


Mom:  What?

Me:  You're welcome.
("I told you so - I told you so - I told you so.....")

Mom: For what?

Me: Because I told you .......never mind.


Me:  What did you bake for bridge?

Mom:  Apple pan dowdy.  Oops - there's the timer - gotta go.

Me:  Bye, Mom.

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Enough is enough is enough, already.

Our life here seems to be framed by tragedy these days.

Deaths in the family - our brother-in-law's partner Robert, Brian's Aunt Mary, my dad - all over the last 5 months.

Dad's prolonged illness left Mom bankrupt. I'm helping her pick up and move forward - living 2,000 miles away.  We wiped out what little savings we had at the time to pay for her lawyer and associated costs. But it's your mom - that's what you do.

And we're trying to help Brian's brother cope with his profound loss. Fortunately, he's only an hour and a half away so we can be there in person to help.

It's all a bit wearing for everyone concerned.

And just when you think the load is about to lighten, somebody else chucks a wrench in the works.

Enter - or rather - exit my brother.

We returned from Robert's memorial service weekend away two Sundays ago only to be informed by my mother that my 43 year old brother, Chris (he of the shady criminal past who had 'reformed' and was living at home, helping my recently widowed mother and trying to raise enough money to bring his wife and two children over from the Philippines) had gone to Lincoln that previous Friday night to overnight with a friend -- and had not returned.

His cell phone went unanswered.  His voicemail was full.  His frantic wife who spoke with him at least a dozen times a day by phone and on the Internet was ringing my mother's phone off the hook.

Mentally and emotionally exhausted, I suggested that perhaps he had gone off on a bender and was embarrassed and lying low.  On the off chance that he might have run afoul of some low persons, I suggested that she check his bank account (on which she is a signer) the following morning to see if anything suspicious could be found.



The following day, it was discovered that two large purchases - each in excess of $1,000 - had happened within minutes of each other on that Saturday in Lincoln.  Across the state in Iowa, a large cash withdrawal was taken out of his account on Sunday.

Mom immediately transferred his remaining monies to another account to prevent further loss. It certainly seemed like something odd had happened.

The bank called later that day.  After further investigation, it was discovered that my brother had actually gone to the Lincoln branch of their bank and written himself two large checks from other accounts...closed accounts.

Other complex transfers and manipulations had taken place.

He had also apparently attempted to purchase an airline ticket and had been declined, due to the moving of the money.

He was running.


I called Mom on Tuesday afternoon to see how she was holding up under the new information.  She informed me that her best friend and fellow church deacon, Ruth, was visiting with her and she would call me shortly.

When she called, her voice was shaking.  Ruth had informed her that while Chris was performing handyman duties for her the previous summer, she had loaned him $4,000 to help him afford a plane ticket to visit his family.  A trip he never made.

He had taken money from his mother's best friend while living under her roof for 8 months and she never knew.

Mom was shattered.

My brother's wife was informed the next time she called and went into panic overdrive. Requests for money for rent, utilities and food began to flood in by phone and by email to my mother.  She begged for one of us to sponsor the family to support them and bring them over.  It was even suggested that I step in as a replacement for my brother, which my mother immediately rebuffed (Thank God).

All my bank accounts, investments and credit reports are secured. Local department of motor vehicles is contacted and notified to mark my record to not issue a duplicate license without certain proofs of identity.

I've been through this before.


I receive an email from the Philippines entitled "have mercy on us" and I just want to cry.

His wife is desperate not to rely on family locally. Mom tells her she will have to.  The money is gone - and there is no more.  I find out that Mom has been sending what she can to them regularly - doing without while my brother contributes some of what he makes and apparently continues to plot.

I offer to call what few relatives we stay in touch with, knowing how mortified and embarrassed she is.  That's when I find out that during an episode where Chris needed repairs to his truck to keep working - and neither Mom or I had the loose cash - my godfather loaned him $1,000.  More money gone, never to be repaid.

My cousins and my godfather are, of course, sensitive and supportive.

I phone Mom that evening and we decide that she is going to move to New York to live near me.  Brian has always said she is welcome to stay - Mom says she refuses to live with us.  I agree - but insist that staying with us until we find her a place of her own is absolutely going to happen.

The night before, I emailed my managers at work, letting them in on what was developing.  The replies and offers of assistance I received - and the assurances that Mom comes first at no peril to my job - left me weeping with joy.  I'm not religious, but I feel truly blessed and so grateful to have the folks around me in my life.  There are none better.

Light begins to creep in around the edges of the cloud hanging over us.  Mom has a mission.  I have a renewed and more confident role in helping her move to a new chapter.  Brian has a guest room to gut and redo which has him over the moon.

It's a win-win-win.


Mom and I talk.  She sounds better.  I feel better.

Shes contacting a realtor.  Her bankruptcy court date is set for late April.

I'm gonna shoot to have her here for Mother's Day - or at least be there helping her pack.


I remember that Mom and Chris had purchased a new sink and floor tiles for the kitchen to improve the house for resale.  I suggest that with no one there to install them, she return them to the store.

No good.  $200 worth of floor tiles and the sales receipt disappeared with him.

It's been relatively quiet ever since.

Mom and I talk daily now.  She moving ahead, clearing out the house.  My brother's belongings are boxed and out of the house.

She is focused on getting that house ready to sell.

She went to church on Sunday, played with her bridge club on Monday and led her bible study group on Tuesday.  Today, she's meeting up with the handful of friends that she and Dad used to have coffee with every Wednesday morning.

She is going on with her life.

I'm making inquiries at several local agencies and communities that deal with income-based affordable housing for active seniors (Mom is only 71 and never stops moving).

I'm also estimating moving costs, researching airline tickets and losing my mind trying to figure out when and for how long I need to be back there to help her out.

We talked again last night. While cleaning out the room my Dad and brother used for their computer stuff, books and miscellaneous crap, my Mom found a box of papers stuffed under the desk.

In it were bank records, marriage and divorce certificates, birth certificates, and other documentation showing that he had been planning this escape for quite some time.

Having dealt with more than two decades of my brothers activities (including years of clean-up from the theft of my identity  - including clearing up a three year stay in a federal penitentiary that I never had the pleasure of serving) I'm not surprised. Nor am I hurt or disappointed.  I've had to get tough that way.

What does hurt me is hearing my mother's tears of disappointment.  She really thought her prayers had been answered and that her youngest had found his way back.  In some measure, I think she was looking forward to being a grandmother again - another something my brother gave her then screwed up years before with my other, older nephews.

It's a sad statement that it would have been preferable to have heard that my brother had been robbed and left in a ditch somewhere.  We'd still have grief, but we wouldn't have the betrayal to deal with.

I just need to keep her whole until I can get her here.

My brother's family in the Philippines have made a connection with a charitable religious organization in Canada that can help them emigrate.  And after two years, they can become Canadian citizens.

Somehow we will all survive.  And I am sure that one day we will all be together - in person for the first time.  Even if it just for a visit.

But I know that we will always wonder... Why did you?  How could you?

And we'll never know the answer.

Update:  I almost forgot to mention that there are also indications that there might be another woman involved.  Ain't he a peach?

Monday, March 19, 2012

Sunday, March 04, 2012

Aging inappropriately: I'm too old for this

The other day, I was in my favorite local family-owned, mini-chain specialty farm, produce and high-end imported foods store (say that 10 times fast) perusing the selection of espresso coffees at the coffee bar when the lady behind the counter asked if she could help me.

I inquired after a variety of blends, including one roasted here locally - Monkey Joe's - and then selected half-pounds of three varieties to try out.

"Do you want them ground?" she asked.

"Oh no!" I exclaimed faux-dramatically, hand held to brow, looking skyward. "I still need to justify buying that high-end Kitchen Aid grinder I have at home!"

At this point, my pretension level went up four points and two trendy New York City-to-Woodstock weekenders in the Imported Polish Juices and Unpronounceable Eastern Block Pickled Items Aisle flinched and went down two hipness levels.

The coffee lady went all misty on me and said, "Isn't that just the best first thing in the morning?  A hot shower, fresh ground coffee you make yourself and - well, (she whispered) - in my case, a cigarette.  There's nothing better."

Looking around first, I then replied, "Oh my GOD. I KNOW! RIGHT?"

Then - in a rapid transition that left me feeling both queasy and traitorous to my forebears - I said, "but you know - it's almost as good when you quit and go E."

I said "E".

Meaning e-cigarette. Electronic cigarette!


Like some damned Park Slope hipster, I said "go E."  Like, I should have totally continued down the hipster path to "Hey, babe - this is the greatest - let's grab a PBR and go vape*!"

(*vape = vapor, i.e., the flavored, scented nicotine water vapor you expel when you 'smoke' an e-cigarette.)

I was ashamed and embarrassed that I now had to explain the e-cigarette concept to some lady who - if she lived in a trailer park in Ohio and bought her make-up at the Dollar Store - could have been an aunt or cousin of mine.

"I've heard of them," she hunkered over the counter and whispered, as if we were discussing herpes.  "Do they work?"

I assured her - they do indeed help.

I'll pause for a moment to let the point sink in - yes, I was smoking ... again - yes, I know it's bad for you - yes, I know I quit at least one time before (those other times were 'kinda' quitting). But this time it's sticking.  Unlike previous attempts, I'm not crazy, my nerves are not sticking three feet out of my body waving like tentacles, waiting to make contact with any random person, animal or hard surface thereby sending me up like a skyrocket of unfettered rage.

No - this time. It's cool.  And it's not just the nicotine supplement that's making it this easy.

It's (gulp) getting older...

I'm simply not willing to work this hard at a supposedly relaxing vice.  I have much better things to do - like watch public television and have cocktails.  My time is too valuable.  The time saved alone in brushing teeth, washing hands and chewing gum to go "unnoticed" has allowed me to sleep an extra hour every night.  I'm getting that much more done.

I don't have to get up, put a coat on, go outside, come back in, hang the coat up, clean up, de-funk - and repeat an hour later. It's just too labor intensive.

Not to mention the cost savings - oy yoy!  And it's not just the $10-11 cigarettes. It's the gum and the Handi-wipes and the Febreeze and the toothpaste.  That stuff adds up.

When I sleep that extra hour every night now, I dream of counting the money I've saved over the last 14 weeks like some kind of demented Scrooge McDuck.  (Actually, I mostly dream about smoking, but I was trying to make a point.)

The down side is that my weekly commute to the office now feels like I'm heading west on the Oregon Trail for days and weeks and months - because I am now simply that bored.  I've considered napping during the commute.

But in the end, I'm pretty proud of myself for making the move. I feel wonderful, knowing that it was really the right time and the right thing to do.

Anyway - I wasn't really sure where this post was heading, but I guess I feel confident enough to share.

Here's to all of you and yours - best wishes for love, strength and support in your own decisions to change things up.

Some Native Americans used to attach prayers to the smoke from their tobacco pipe, sending their good wishes to the intended recipient on the winds.

You'll all need to settle for good wishes on a wisp of Vanilla scented vape. (that and the cherry flavored ones rock!)

Saturday, March 03, 2012

In memoriam

In loving memory of my brother-in-law, Robert Cacciola. 3/3/2012

Culinary Institute graduate, former executive chef at Bon Appetit - and the most daunting kind of relation ever if you fancy yourself a good cook. But as my husband's brother Terrence - who loved and lived with and for Robert for so many years always told me - "my house ain't a restaurant."

But most importantly, Robert and Terrence were together when he passed. At home, as Robert desired. Years of love will not vanish nor fade.
Robert always had a smile on - you never saw him down.  And whatever he was doing with food seemed absolutely effortless.
Robert was a natural at what he loved.  And he loved life.  I saw that in his demeanor and in the life he gave my brother-in-law Terrence.
Check out this video - it's Robert at his best:

Peace to you, Robert. 
All my love and best wishes as you embark on your next journey.

Just one more reason...

...why you want to be reincarnated as a Shar Pei in need of rescue.

Apparently, we're doggie heaven.

Okay - THIS is the guard dog - the one who barks.  She doesn't even trust the husband yet.  

Yet, I came home yesterday and was fumbling in the door with grocery bags and stuff, and did she get up?

No - she made this little "Wwurrrffff" noise into the pillow and went back to sleep.

And where were the other two, you might ask?

Why - they were recharging themselves with a day of luxury in the boudoir de l'amour, of course.

Lucky bitches.

Friday, March 02, 2012

Friday blasphemy: Join me in Hell

I wanted to write something but it's Friday and to hell with it.

I've been amassing these images to do a witty post on how images of Jesus are used and abused, but I'm just gonna post the funny ones instead and hope God won't kill me right off.